China’s Gold Rush

When asked about his company’s plans for 2003, Kirk Pond, the CEO of Fairchild Semiconductor, talked mostly about Asia, specifically China. His company already does 70% of its business in Asia; he calls China “the next big thing.”

Fairchild is hardly alone. China is Siemens’ third largest market. China is the world’s largest cellular market. And it’s really just a matter of time before China is the world’s largest everything market. There is gold in China, in the form of 1.2 billion consumers.

According to today’s New York Times, General Motors sold 110,000 cars in China in 2002. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. McDonald’s and KFC have a combined 700 restaurants in China. Kodak does a sizable business there. And last week Ethan Allen announced the opening of its first store in China.

But like every gold rush, a lot of people are going to get hurt along the way. China actively promotes “knowledge transfer,” a euphemism for stealing your technology. Companies are often forced to open R&D centers and hire Chinese nationals, and most follow along because their competitors are doing the same thing. Piracy is still rampant and corruption is a way of life.

But nobody said striking gold was easy.

If you want to learn more about this market, I encourage you to subscribe to Rich Kuslan’s weblog: Asia Business Intelligence. It’s a terrific resource.

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